I hope this post finds its way to the members and attendees of Living Stones (LS) Church, Reno, Nevada. I have already made an effort to go directly to your pastor. In short, I was told I am wrong, on the wrong side of church history and orthodoxy, so I am addressing this directly to the people in the seats.
I have lived and worshipped in this city for over three decades. My two grown straight children are the ages of many of you; they are Sami, 28, and Andrew, 30. Many of you went to grade school, high school or UNR with them. I know LS attracts a large, trending toward young population. I care that the young people of Reno/Sparks have been given scriptural “reason” to further drive away lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from the Kingdom of God.
I watched Pastor Harvey’s March 6th video “The Doctrine of Sex — Homosexuality”. Though I believe his intentions were honorable in apologizing to the LGBT community for poor treatment by the Christian community in recent decades, the sad irony is that he followed his letter with misuse of texts that serve to foster further mistreatment of the LGBT community.
Dearest current generation of conservative Christians, use the talents and skills you’ve learned in education to ensure that what you are being taught from your pulpits is accurate. Apply the wisdom of God, and be guided by the Spirit and a call to ethical treatment of those of your friends who are gay.
I’m 60. Christians in my age group are guilty of not having questioned what faith leaders told us about gay people. From the late 1970s to about 2004, the merger of conservative religion and politics in America was a nightmare (just look to the proof of where it has gotten us in this election). The unholy marriage rallied its fear-fueled rhetoric around the God-hating, family-threatening, child-recruiting, country-destroying, filthy gays.
We fell for it. We didn’t have access to the excellent resources now available to refute those claims. We rarely knew or had relationships with LGBT people, never mind those who identified as Christians. You have so much more access to check for the truth. Pursue it.
Make sure your theology expresses itself in the ethical treatment of those who are still marginalized in our churches. Be better than my generation of Christians.
When Pastor Harvey uses the six passages of Scripture referring to same-sex behavior in the Bible, you should diligently be checking your leaders, and not just listening lazily.
Are good practices of exegesis being applied to Scripture?
Who is the author? Who is the audience? What is the cultural or historical context? What was the original intended meaning of the passage? What did the specific words used mean at the time of writing?
It’s not appropriate to reach back into history and assign unintended meanings to ancient passages. In other words, a text cannot mean what it never could have meant at the time it was written.
The Bible passages referring to same-sex behavior were written in a time, by authors, and to an audience bound in patriarchy (men hold power over women), and gender hierarchy (men are superior to women).
Every one of the six passages was written through these lenses, and should be read and understood as intended at that time. Women were far inferior, and for a man to submit to the social or sexual role of a woman was the worst thing he could do or be.
Sodom — men wanted to violently rape the angels and humiliate them by using them as one would sexually use a woman.
Leviticus — God warned His people to not act like the pagan cultures they were leaving and about to once again enter. They used boys sexually to penetrate, as one used a woman. In ancient cultures, no two men of equal status engaged in sex; there was always an age or power differential.
Romans 1 — Paul was speaking to the Stoic Gentiles here. He was trying to tell them they too needed a Savior. Their law, as opposed to the Jew’s Law, demanded that, to be in alignment with nature, they had to be self-controlled, maintain male sexual and social dominance, and sex was to be toward procreation. Romans 1 is a scene of “Stoics Gone Wild.” Paul lays the groundwork to show that only a relationship with Christ could save them from their lack of control and lives lived for themselves.
1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy — again context, and original language of two Greek words. Arsenokoites is most closely translated as “men who have sex with boys,” condemning the use of males as less-than, as women. Malakos means soft or “effeminate” which in the 1611 KJV was an accurate translation. It meant to have the disposition of a woman, as believed in ancient cultures: lustful, promiscuous in sex, given to excesses, lazy, deceitful, and yes, sexually in the submissive position.
Every time the word “homosexual” appears in a modern translation, it is referring to lustful behaviors of men using males, mostly boys or slaves, sexually, treating them as a woman. This is not loving; it is using and lust. There are no examples of equal-status males in loving relationships. It was not part of ancient culture.
Throughout history, and particularly in ancient cultures, dismissive attitudes toward women, along with men who engaged in same-sex behavior, have been intrinsically tied together. Of course then, we would expect historical texts to reflect that the worth and dignity of penetrated men would be reduced to the low status of women.
Medically and culturally, we have only begun to understand that there are people who are romantically, emotionally, and sexually attracted to the same sex since the turn of the 20th century. It is absolutely impossible that texts written 3400 years and 2000 years ago were referring to these relationships or to gay people.
Medically and culturally, as same-sex attracted people (not men with boys, which had been more common, but men with men) began to become visible within society, they were soon shamed to the edges. In the 1940s through the 1970s, gay people were labeled as sick, mentally ill, and a threat to the country. They were severely oppressed. In the mid-1970s, the designation of mental illness (which never had any research behind it) was lifted.
It was then that the Christians of my generation resurrected the dying persecution, but this time, in the name of God.
Please, this generation of Christians, undo our damage. Yes, be very sorry along with us for what we did, but don’t prolong this mess by misusing passages, as we did. We imposed our cultural prejudices onto Holy Texts and marginalized people. This is one of the major sins of my generation of Christians. We mistreated people in the Name of God.
You have resources. You have gay and transgender friends. You have the internet to search out good information. Until you expand your empathetic listening to hear the voices of the marginalized, you will be guilty of our sin by continuing to wrongly interpret Scripture.
The time is now for many flawed lenses (historical, social, medical, psychological, political, and religious) through which we have viewed the LGBT community to be challenged. When you empathetically hear the voice of marginalized and do something to alleviate the pain, you will see a more broad expression of God and His love.
New life will come to the church. It is my opinion that the singular group of Christians who excel most at grace, mercy, and unconditional love are LGBT Christians. They have had to battle to the get to the heart of God through the roadblocks we have constructed to try to stop them. They’ve been richly rewarded.
Please redeem the conservative Christian church. Save us from our ignorance and conditional love. Figure it out. Dig in for yourselves.
As a start, here are progressive inclusive interpretations of the six passages of Scripture, which do not view passages through severely flawed lenses.
This is a list of highly useful books, to be read in order:
Torn — Justin Lee (gay Christian)
Walking the Bridgeless Canyon — by me, Kathy Baldock (it is even available nearby at Sundance Book Store)
God and the Gay Christian — Matthew Vines (gay Christian)
Changing Our Mind — Dr. David Gushee
Making Sense of the Bible — Pastor Adam Hamilton
Bible, Gender, Sexuality — Dr. James Brownson
Ancient Law & Contemporary Controversies — Dr. Cheryl Anderson
This issue is too important to ignore. Press in and be diligent by reading both sides before settling into your personal doctrine about faith as it intersects sexual orientation.
The message preached at Living Stones last Sunday was damaging.
Damaging to the membership because you will continue to be part of the problem as well as depriving yourselves of the richness of fellowship with God’s LGBT children. It is also immeasurably damaging to LGBT people, and LGBT Christians.
Every professional medical and health care organization in the U.S. acknowledges that homosexuality is a natural variation of human sexuality.
It is time for conservative Christians to embrace God’s diversity in design, to stop shaming people for who they are, and to welcome LGBT people to become part of community. Without condition. No orientation sublimation. No demand that they remain celibate for life. No hope that they get heterosexually married. None of it.
Straight people get married and create family. Gay people get married and create family. (I did an entire series answering objections here addressing history of marriage, marriage as a civil right, marriage equality, biblical support for same sex marriage, the “imperative” toward procreation, and complementarity .)
Your pastor cautioned me, “The movement that you are part of is extremely small for a reason.” Ah, but that is the nature of prophetic movements and calls for justice. They do start out small. God still uses the least likely and powerless to confound the dominant structures so that they may know it is God’s doing. (1 Corinthians 1:28)
God is using the LGBT Christian community to show us our blind spots in loving well, and how to extend true grace, and mercy. Within five years, maybe less, the major shift will have happened within the church to include LGBT believers, unconditionally. Please become part of this redemption.
Thank you for hanging in there on this long read. This is not a simple issue.
I am not hopeful that this redemptive transformation is on the near horizon for Living Stones. If you want to participate in a truly more welcoming and inclusive community, try The Rock Church in Sparks. The worship style and community are similar to Living Stones, but non-oppressive to those who are marginalized, and those who love them.
Additionally, in the upcoming Sunday sermon, you will be given Deuteronomy 22:5 as the proof text about trans people and asked how this passage can be used to inform you about gender dysphoria and transgender issues. Sadly, here is another misuse of Scripture that adds to the mistreatment of those who are transgender.
Post #3: Complementarianism is just patriarchy and gender hierarchy with a more palatable name.
[I will be doing a full six-hour presentation on the history of cultural and religious discrimination against the LGBT community on April 23rd at Trinity Episcopal. Details here. If you get a group of ten or more together officially or unofficially from LS, I will come speak with you. I care about us moving together to a better reflection of Jesus.]